Mums are key to happiness

Sheena Patterson

Sheena Patterson

First published in Columns Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Off With The Gloves

Sheena Patterson of Oxford Garden Design investigates the legendary chrysanthemum

Do you want to be happy for the rest of your life? Then, according to an old Chinese philosopher you should grow chrysanthemums.

I’ve got a friend whose hobbies are photography and chrysanthemum growing and, yes, he’s at his happiest when photographing his mum’s.

I went to have a look at his flower collection last weekend, which is being lovingly prepared for the annual autumn village show. He always wins, and it’s not just because it’s judged by his friend the Oxford Mail’s Off with the Gloves columnist. Naturally, I am completely unbiased. Chrysanthemums are great plants to grow for autumn colour and have an interesting history, almost as colourful as the plants themselves.

First cultivated in China as a flowering herb, they were believed to have the power of life and are described in writings as early as the 15th century BC. Pottery from that time depicts the chrysanthemum much as we know it today.

Around the 8th century AD, the chrysanthemum appeared in Japan. The Japanese were so taken with this flower that they adopted a single flowered chrysanthemum as the crest and official seal of the Emperor. The Supreme Order of the chrysanthemum is Japan’s highest order of merit, and the “rising sun” on Japanese postage stamps is actually a chrysanthemum flower. Japan’s National Chrysanthemum Day is called the Festival of Happiness.

It’s hard to imagine that chrysanthemum shows were held in Japan before William the Conqueror set foot in Britain.

Rather surprisingly, given its popularity in Far Eastern counties, the chrysanthemum wasn’t introduced into the Western world until the 17th century. In 1753 Karl Linnaeus, the renowned Swedish botanist, combined the Greek words chrysos, meaning gold with anthemon, meaning flower.

These early chrysanthemums only flowered in the autumn. Growers in the 1960s discovered how they could get chrysanthemums to flower all year round, and now it is available in all seasons, in a range of types and colours, probably unrecognisable to the early growers.

There’s a lovely legend associated with the chrysanthemum, which originated in China. A girl asked the spirit how long her forthcoming marriage would last and was told they would remain together for as many years as there were petals on the flower she would wear on her wedding dress. She could only find one with 17 petals, so she divided each petal into two then four. This was the first chrysanthemum.

Since then the flower has been revered in the East as a symbol of purity and long life. I wonder if it should also be a symbol of female ingenuity!

Confucius once suggested they be used as an object of meditation and it’s said that a single petal of this celebrated flower placed at the bottom of a wine glass will encourage a long, healthy life. It doesn’t say if the wine glass should be full or empty so that will be the focus of my meditation this evening. Given that my glass is always half full, it’s a certainty I’ll be happy!

  • Do you want alerts delivered straight to your phone via our WhatsApp service? Text NEWS or SPORT or NEWS AND SPORT, depending on which services you want, and your full name to 07767 417704. Save our number into your phone’s contacts as Oxford Mail WhatsApp and ensure you have WhatsApp installed.

Travel: Bodrum, Turkey - We’re too busy chilling out

Oxford Mail:

12:00pm Thursday 21st May 2015

Katherine MacAlister discovers ultimate understated luxury in Turkey’s Barbaros Bay

Jersey - Taking the liberty to explore

Oxford Mail:

1:57pm Thursday 14th May 2015

Lucy Ford learns that there is much more to Jersey than TV detective Jim Bergerac

In the shadow of Rubens

Oxford Mail:

3:02pm Thursday 30th April 2015

There is much more to Antwerp than frites and fat ladies, finds Carol Wright

Addicted to Jamon – A foodie’s tour of Spain

Oxford Mail:

4:01pm Thursday 23rd April 2015

Jonathan Broadley likes ham so much he took a foodie tour of Spain to sample it

Accordions, schnapps and adventure: Austrian enchantment in Lech

Oxford Mail:

4:23pm Thursday 16th April 2015

Tim Hughes experiences the delights of traditional Austrian hospitality in Vor Arlberg

Soap far so good for so-busy Julia

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Jaine Blackman meets Julia Walker – a mum, musician and one of the women behind the Of Woodstock artisan soap and skincare company

Get moving if you want to feel benefit

Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Lisa Cueurden gives motivational tips to get people exercising

Studio doors open as city celebrates its art

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

With creative types preparing for Oxfordshire Artweeks, festival director Esther Lafferty gives a preview of what is in store during the 2015 event

Why making sure you are vaccinated is very important

Oxford Mail: Renee Watson

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

The single most effective medical intervention EVER is the vaccine...

My mounting problem with Mr Mole’s hills

Oxford Mail: Sheena Patterson

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Sheena Patterson on her mole problem

‘My fight to beat Bullfinch abusers’

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Book tells how adoptive mum’s love saved troubled teen from a sex and drugs nightmare. Jaine Blackman reports

Why I’m dreaming of a good night’s sleep

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

No-one quite knows why a bit of shut-eye is good for us, but, says Renee Watson, it certainly is

Fall under a magic spell at Canadian spectacle

Oxford Mail:

11:00am Saturday 11th April 2015

Breath-taking Niagara Falls spectacle is the high point of Helen Peacocke's trip of a lifetime

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree